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What are Spinal Cord Nerves?

By Misty Wiser
Updated May 17, 2024
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Spinal cord nerves are located within the spinal cord and are protected by layers of bony tissue. These nerves are responsible for carrying information from the brain to operate the rest of the body by means of motor nerves, They are the means to transmit information such as temperature and sensation from the body to the brain through sensory nerves. The spinal cord nerves are divided into five different groups with varied functions that depend on their location. There are eight cervical nerves, which are labeled C1-C8 and are located near the skull and neck; 12 thoracic nerves, which are labeled T1-T12 and are located near the rib cage; five lumber nerves, which are labeled L1-L5 and are located at the lower back area; five sacral nerves, which are labeled S1-S5 and are located at the lowest part of the backbone; and one coccygeal nerve located at the end of the tailbone.

Spinal cord nerves work together by joining into groups called a plexus. There are four main nerve structures of the spine called the cervical plexus, the brachial plexus, the lumbar plexus and the sacral plexus. The spinal nerve fibers that join at these intersections work together to form the peripheral nerves that are the main message senders for the human body.

Most spinal cord nerves are covered by a myelin sheath, which consists of fatty layers and proteins that help prevent the nerves from coming into contact with one another. If the nerves did make contact with each other, that might confuse the messages that are intended to be received or sent by the brain. One disease that attacks the myelin sheath is multiple sclerosis (MS). The myelin sheath becomes pitted with areas that are not protected, and the nerves of the spinal cord are unable to operate normally, causing pain and causing the body to become unable to function properly.

Damaged spinal cord nerves do not repair themselves, resulting in paralysis or other medical conditions after an injury to the spinal cord. The body part that is affected by the nerve damage directly correlates to the area of the spinal cord anatomy that was injured. Pinched nerves located in the cervical region likely will cause pain in the arm, hand or shoulder area, for example. A pinched or damaged nerve in the lumbar region, however, will cause pain or weakness in the legs or feet. An injury to the top of the cervical area, such as C1 or C2, will cause respiratory problems because of the proximity to the brainstem.

Spinal cord nerves transmit all the information from the body to the brain. Scientists hope that stem cell research will enable them to facilitate the growth of new nerve fibers, enabling the spinal cord nerves to heal themselves after injury. This healing capability would help save lives and improve the daily lives of those affected by spinal cord injuries.

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